The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game is a small-box distilliation of a larger game called The Castles of Burgundy. Before I begin this review, I want to say: I have never played the original Castles of Burgundy board game. I bought the card game version specifically because I wanted an inexpensive game that I could play solo. (The game cost me less than $10 and was a filler item from CoolStuffInc!)
Sometimes, I don't want my gaming time to be overly complicated. I just want to shuffle some cards, puzzle through some options, and try to squeeze the maximum benefit out of the resources that I have to work with. If that is ever something you're looking for, then Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game is a solid, low-budget option for you.
Like its larger parent, the Castles of Burgundy card game is focused on building up an estate. Your ultimate goal is to earn the most victory points. This can be achieved by building triplets (three of a single building type), Each round, you are dealt cards that allow you to perform actions such as acquiring new cards or placing cards that you already own in your estate. Your purchasing power is based not on actual dice, but on the die values printed at the top of each card. To help you modify the numbers in your favor, you can use worker cards to adjust die rolls up or down. To get access to more cards, you can acquire and then spend silver to take extra actions and draw extra cards.
When you are playing the solo variant of the game, your opponent is a set of AI decks called "Aaron," which stands for An Almost Real OppoNent. Your goal is to stay ahead of Aaron for each of the game's five rounds. If you end a round with a lower score than his, the game is over and you lose. Aaron will automatically acquire increasing numbers of cards per round. The heart of scoring in this game is acquiring triplets, and then getting the bonuses that come with being the first to build a triplet of a particular type. If you don't act fast, Aaron might beat you to the triplets, depending on what cards he is holding in the decks that you create as part of his pre-game setup.
Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game is enjoyable in a meditative kind of way: It gives me a puzzle to focus on, and I enjoy mulling over which options are best when I have several. It's one of my go-to quick solo games, and I will have no problem playing it ten times (or more) in 2017. Castles of Burgundy is also a quick game that doesn't outstay its welcome—although you should expect for it to take up a LOT of table space. The cards are tiny, but you'll be laying out so many of them that you'll be amazed the whole game fits into such a small box.
Strategically, the game is hit or miss. While I am more of a long-term planning type, Castles of Burgundy forces me to make a lot of short-term decisions—the goal of the game is to defeat Aaron round to round, so planning sometimes needs to take a backseat to immediate point gains. Occasionally, no amount of strategy is going to matter. As you might have guessed from the description above, Aaron is an unpredictable opponent: Sometimes, he's a slow starter who doesn't score very many points early on. Other times, he will get a lot of early triplets and run away with the game.
If you enjoy games where you try to wring as much value as possible out of the cards you've been dealt, then Castles of Burgundy is going to be fun for you. The theme of estate building is pretty pasted-on, but I don't really care because I'm in this one for its light puzzle feel. I haven't tried the multiplayer version of the game yet, but may teach my boyfriend soon. Solo play is my usual thing, but I'd like to spar with someone a bit more sentient than Aaron.